In a seven-to-two decision Monday, the US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Colorado baker Jack Philips after he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012, citing his religious rights as grounds for the decision.
When Charlie Craig and David Mullins decided to get married, they went to Masterpiece Cakeshop with Craig’s mother to order a cake for a hometown celebration once the pair wed in Massachusetts. Owner Philips said he would not make a cake for the couple based on his personal religious beliefs and the couple filed a civil rights complaint. Colorado has strict anti-discrimination laws for businesses.
Colorado courts sided with the couple, but the case eventually went to the Supreme Court in 2017. In their ruling today, SCOTUS said that their decision was based solely on the premise that the Colorado Civil Rights Union showed bias against Philips on anti-religious grounds, and therefore reversed the original decision. Their ruling doesn’t change the constitution or equality rights in the country.
“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” the ruling states.
The only two dissenters on the bench were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor. In her dissenting statement, Ginsberg said, “When a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are seeking is a cake celebrating their wedding — not a cake celebrating heterosexual weddings or same-sex weddings — and that is the service (the couple) were denied.”
Although this ruling is quite narrow and based solely on how the case was handled in Colorado courts, some fear the signal this ruling sends to business owners who might be willing to discriminate based on personal beliefs, pointing to historical instances of accepted service denial as a way to control minorities in the country.
“Before you say, “It’ just a cake,” look at history & how people have used the denial of services to oppress LGBTQ people,” tweeted author and activist Ijeoma Oluo on Monday. “People of color, and religious minorities in this country. This is how you keep people out of jobs, homes, & public life. This is how you destroy people.”
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)